On the Market: Lofts in a Former Chocolate Factory
After more than 30 years of renovations, the Baker Chocolate Factory campus is finished with debuting new units. The famed candy-making-mecca-turned-housing community put its last new condominiums on the market last month.
Located in the Lower Mills neighborhood of Dorchester, residential units in America’s first chocolate factory were opened in 1983, about 20 years after the factory was shuttered to create a new production facility in Delaware. Since then, each of the factory’s seven sections has gone through a series of renovations. The latest of the units in the complex known as the Lofts at Lower Mills are called the Water Mill Lofts. Completed in 2010, they’ve been offered as rentals for the last five years until now. Unit prices average in the low $500,000 range.
Situated on the Neponset River, the Water Mill Lofts were formerly the chocolate factory’s boiler room. Appropriately, its industrial feel has been retained in the 17 new units with interior details like a metal staircases, industrial piping, and preserved historic beams and windows.
For Bob Verrier, the completion of the lofts is bittersweet. He’s led firm The Architectural Team since the first renovations began in the 1980s.
“It took me a third of my life,” says Verrier. “So, actually I guess I’d say I have postpartum blues. We’ve been working on it for so long I felt as though it’s been a part of me.”
He says the development breathed new life into the community, comparing the new units to the abandoned, decaying buildings he first encountered on the site. Instead of a decrepit series of brick structures, the factory boasts living spaces with gourmet kitchens, glass showers, walk-in closets, and a host of other amenities.
Shiny new details make the units sparkle, but The Architectural Team’s renovations didn’t skip over the buildings’ history—or its share of sweet stories.
Verrier was on the site when workers made a surprising discovery in the Walter Baker Administration Building, now a group of artists’ studios. When removing a piece of wood paneling in the building, they found a perfectly-intact oil painting of the Baker company’s logo. The painting, called “The Chocolate Girl” or “La Belle Chocolatière,” was done by 18th-century Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard. The company obtained the rights to use the painting as their logo in 1883.
“There was a magnificent staircase going up to the second landing, and at the top of the landing, under plywood, we discovered a fantastic painting,” says Verrier. “We were able to save it. It was in excellent condition—nobody had damaged it.”
Verrier and his team restored the painting, placing it at the top of this grand staircase in the building’s gallery space.
Visitors to the 18th-century former confection factory have said chocolatey fragrances are occasionally detectable. So as long as you don’t mind random smells in your new home, the Water Mill Lofts could indeed be home sweet home.
The Lofts at Lower Mills, 1245 Adams St., Dorchester, loftsatlowermills.com.